DIFFERENCES 

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By BY BACHI KARKARIA
  • Published 7.07.02
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Seminal studies It's official. Uppers give uppers. The latest piece of research involving sex reveals that semen acts as an anti-depressant in women. Much like the administering act itself, the research is penetrating, high-sounding, and perpetuates male power, but at the end of the day, it may prove to be a downright phallusy. A team from the State University of New York divided 293 female students into groups depending on how often their sexual partners used condoms. They then measured their happiness using the medically endorsed Beck Depression Inventory, a standard questionnaire for assessing mood. The benchmark is a score of 17, indicating moderate depression. And if you are wondering about the odd number of respondents, may be seven had partners who dropped out. The findings showed a variation on the suggestive Brooke Shields line: 'Nothing comes between me and my Calvins'. The respondents may well have said, 'Nothing comes between me and my happiness', since, the women whose partners never used a sheath reportedly scored a peppy 8, the lowest on the Depression scale. The group whose partners occasionally used a rubber scored 10.5. Frequency of condom use kept pushing the respondents higher up the depressive meter. And, finally, the women who weren't having any sex at all were 'found' to be the worst off; their score shot up to 13.5. The lengths to which people will go in the name of research! The meticulous NYSU team headed by psychologist Gordon Gallup discovered that the longer the interval between sexual intercourse, the lower the mood of the women who never or seldom used condoms. It even reported that depressive symptoms and suicide attempts were more common among women whose partners used condoms more regularly compared to those who didn't. Are they going to rename depression 'Semen Deprivation Syndrome'? Dr Gallup may have told New Scientist that unpublished data from a larger cohort of 700 women confirm these findings, but I have several problems with them. Starting with the millions poured into the promotion of safe sex. If you follow the team's lessons to the letter, you may end up with AIDS, unwanted babies, and/or all manner of unsavoury diseases which could cause you great pain and anguish, but, surprise, surprise, you'll never suffer from clinical depression. Pass me the Prozac. My second problem is with the desperate drive to prove that women are still entirely dependent on men for their happiness. Forget about empowerment, self-actualisation, an afternoon of shopping, the more therapeutic gossip (whose anti-depressant properties have, incidentally, also been scientifically mapped), or even an elevating book. Apparently, the only answer to the blues is direct contact with the whites. Dr Gallup's findings endorse the sexist locker-room remark: 'Her problem is that she hasn't got laid.' Is 'she' an egg, or what? My third grouse is against the reductive nature of this genre of research. Must scientists be such kill-joys even if the end is a cure for depression? Why can't they leave alone the pleasures of Kama Sutra the treatise, with or without Kama Sutra the safety barrier? The beneficial effects of a satisfying session were known ever since Adam discovered that an apple a night keeps Eve from being uptight. This MR-engineered obsession with 'show me the data' could ruin everything. Now we must forget about chemistry, and reconcile ourselves to the cold, hard fact that it's only about the composition of semen. It's almost as bad as that similarly named England goalkeeper missing that sexy Brazilian ball.